Which would you rather have: a marriage or a relationship?
“Hold on!” you say, “A marriage is a relationship.”
Yes, and welcome to the world of false dichotomies.
“Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.”
“You call it religion. I call it relationship.”
“It’s against my relationship to have a religion.”
“Religion sets rules. Jesus sets you free.”
“Religion says do. Jesus says done.”
“Jesus is my savior, not my religion.”
“I love Jesus but hate religion.”
“Jesus > Religion.”
“Relationship > Religion.”
“God hates religion.”
Do you get the picture? Religion OR Relationship. Choose one. It is this divisional attitude that causes its own reactionary swing in a generation or two to the other side. But the bible doesn’t speak of our status with God as either religion or relationship. Rather it speaks of it as a covenant:
“God’s personal relationship with us takes the form of a covenant. The “covenant” structures God’s personal relationship with us. We do not merely have a personal relationship with Jesus. That might mean almost anything. To some it simply means that Jesus is going to take them to heaven when they die because they prayed a prayer or walked an aisle in church. To others it might mean more, so that they talk to him when they are in trouble or come to church to think about him occasionally. A covenantal relationship, however, is a formal, binding relationship between God and us. Like marriage (which is a human covenant modeled after God’s covenant with us, Eph. 5:22ff.), God’s covenant with us has a definitive shape and content. The covenant contains promises that are made to be kept (by God and us), privileges that we are to enjoy, and stipulations that we must strive to obey.”
– Jeffrey Meyers
Covenant = both relationship and religion. Or in better words: the covenant includes both a relationship and rules. This is the nature of God’s dealings with humans. It is just like a marriage which includes both a relationship and strict rules without which there would be no relationship. If you think otherwise, try to propose without a ring.